It is important for the metabolism of proteins, fats and carbohydrates and the creation of red blood cells and neurotransmitters.
Vitamin B6, also known as pyridoxine , is a water-soluble vitamin that your body needs for various functions.
Your body cannot make vitamin B6, so you must get it from food or supplements.
Most people get enough vitamin B6 through their diet, but certain populations may be at risk for deficiency.
Consuming adequate amounts of vitamin B6 is important for optimal health and can even prevent and treat chronic diseases.
Let’s Check Out 9 Science-Backed Health Benefits Of Vitamin B6
1. It can improve mood and reduce symptoms of depression
Vitamin B6 plays an important role in regulating mood.
This is partly because this vitamin is necessary to create neurotransmitters that regulate emotions, such as serotonin, dopamine, and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA).
Vitamin B6 may also play a role in lowering elevated blood levels of the amino acid homocysteine, which has been linked to depression and other psychiatric problems.
Several studies have shown that depressive symptoms are associated with low blood levels and vitamin B6 consumption, especially in older adults who are at high risk for vitamin B deficiency.
A study in 250 older adults found that deficient levels of vitamin B6 in the blood doubled the likelihood of depression.
However, the use of vitamin B6 to prevent or treat depression has not been shown to be effective.
A two-year controlled study of approximately 300 older men who were initially depressed found that those who took a supplement with B6, folate (B9), and B12 were no less likely to have depressive symptoms compared to the placebo group.
Low levels of vitamin B6 in older adults have been linked to depression, but research has not shown that B6 is an effective treatment for mood disorders.
2. It can promote brain health and reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s
Vitamin B6 may play a role in improving brain function and preventing Alzheimer’s disease, but the research is conflicting.
For one thing, B6 can lower the high levels of homocysteine in the blood that can increase the risk of Alzheimer’s.
A study in 156 adults with high homocysteine levels and mild cognitive impairment found that taking high doses of B6, B12, and folate (B9) lowered homocysteine and reduced wasting in some brain regions that are vulnerable to Alzheimer’s.
However, it is not clear whether a decrease in homocysteine translates into improvements in brain function or a slower rate of cognitive decline.
A randomized controlled trial in more than 400 adults with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s found that high doses of B6, B12, and folate decreased homocysteine levels but did not decrease the decline in brain function compared to a placebo.
Additionally, a review of 19 studies concluded that supplementation with B6, B12, and folate alone or in combination did not improve brain function or reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s.
More research looking at the effect of vitamin B6 alone on homocysteine levels and brain function is needed to better understand the role of this vitamin in improving brain health.
Vitamin B6 can prevent a decline in brain function by lowering homocysteine levels that have been associated with Alzheimer’s disease and memory problems.
However, studies have not shown the effectiveness of B6 in improving brain health.
3. It can prevent and treat anemia by helping the production of hemoglobin
Due to its role in the production of hemoglobin, vitamin B6 may be helpful in preventing and treating anemia caused by deficiency.
Hemoglobin is a protein that sends oxygen to cells. When you have low hemoglobin, your cells don’t get enough oxygen. As a result, you may develop anemia and feel weak or tired.
Studies have linked low vitamin B6 levels to anemia, especially in pregnant women and women of childbearing age.
However, vitamin B6 deficiency is believed to be rare in most healthy adults, so there is limited research on the use of B6 to treat anemia.
A case study in a 72-year-old woman with anemia due to a low B6 level found that treatment with the most active form of vitamin B6 improved symptoms.
Another study found that taking 75 mg of vitamin B6 daily during pregnancy decreased anemia symptoms in 56 pregnant women who did not respond to iron treatment.
More research is needed to understand the effectiveness of vitamin B6 in treating anemia in populations other than those at increased risk for vitamin B deficiency, such as pregnant women and older adults.
Not getting enough vitamin B6 can lead to low hemoglobin and anemia, so supplementing with this vitamin can prevent or treat these problems.
4. May be helpful in treating PMS symptoms
Vitamin B6 has been used to treat the symptoms of PMS or PMS, such as anxiety, depression, and irritability.
Researchers suspect that B6 helps with PMS-related emotional symptoms due to its role in creating neurotransmitters that regulate mood.
A three-month study of more than 60 premenopausal women found that taking 50 mg of vitamin B6 per day improved PMS symptoms of depression, irritability, and tiredness by 69%.
However, women who received a placebo also reported improved PMS symptoms, suggesting that the effectiveness of the vitamin B6 supplement may be due in part to a placebo effect.
Another small study found that 50 mg of vitamin B6 along with 200 mg of magnesium per day significantly reduced PMS symptoms, including mood swings, irritability, and anxiety, over the course of a menstrual cycle.
While these results are promising, they are limited by the small sample size and short duration.
More research is needed on the safety and efficacy of vitamin B6 for improving PMS symptoms before recommendations can be made.
Some research has indicated that high doses of vitamin B6 may be effective in decreasing anxiety and other mood problems associated with PMS due to its role in creating neurotransmitters.
5. Can help treat nausea during pregnancy
Vitamin B6 has been used for decades to treat nausea and vomiting during pregnancy.
In fact, it is an ingredient in Diclegis, a drug commonly used to treat morning sickness.
Researchers aren’t entirely sure why vitamin B6 helps with morning sickness, but it may be because adequate B6 plays several vital roles in ensuring a healthy pregnancy.
A study in 342 women in their first 17 weeks of pregnancy found that a daily supplement of 30 mg of vitamin B6 significantly reduced feelings of nausea after five days of treatment, compared to a placebo.
Another study compared the impact of ginger and vitamin B6 in reducing episodes of nausea and vomiting in 126 pregnant women.
The results showed that taking 75 mg of B6 each day decreased nausea and vomiting symptoms by 31% after four days.
These studies suggest that vitamin B6 is effective in treating morning sickness even for durations of less than a week.
If you’re interested in taking B6 for morning sickness, talk to your doctor before starting any supplements.
Vitamin B6 supplements in doses of 30 to 75 mg per day have been used as an effective treatment for nausea and vomiting during pregnancy.
6. It can prevent clogged arteries and reduce the risk of heart disease
Vitamin B6 can prevent clogged arteries and minimize the risk of heart disease.
Research shows that people with low levels of vitamin B6 in their blood have almost twice the risk of developing heart disease compared to those with higher levels of vitamin B6.
This is likely due to the role of B6 in lowering elevated homocysteine levels associated with various disease processes, including heart disease.
One study found that rats deficient in vitamin B6 had higher blood cholesterol levels and developed lesions that could cause arterial blockages after being exposed to homocysteine, compared to rats with adequate levels of B6.
Human research also shows a beneficial effect of B6 in preventing heart disease.
A randomized controlled trial of 158 healthy adults who had siblings with heart disease divided the participants into two groups, one that received 250 mg of vitamin B6 and 5 mg of folic acid every day for two years, and another that received a placebo.
The group that took B6 and folic acid had lower homocysteine levels and fewer abnormal heart tests during exercise than the placebo group, putting them at a lower overall risk for heart disease.
Vitamin B6 can help reduce high homocysteine levels that lead to narrowing of the arteries. This can minimize the risk of heart disease.
7. It can help prevent cancer
Getting enough vitamin B6 can lower your risk of developing certain types of cancer.
Why B6 may help prevent cancer is unclear, but researchers suspect it is related to its ability to fight inflammation that can contribute to cancer and other chronic conditions.
A review of 12 studies found that both adequate dietary intake and blood levels of B6 were associated with lower risks of colorectal cancer.
People with the highest levels of B6 in their blood had an almost 50% lower risk of developing this type of cancer.
Research on vitamin B6 and breast cancer also shows an association between adequate blood levels of B6 and a lower risk of the disease, especially in postmenopausal women.
However, other studies on vitamin B6 levels and cancer risk have found no association.
More research including randomized trials and not merely observational studies is needed to assess the exact role of vitamin B6 in cancer prevention.
Some observational studies suggest a relationship between adequate dietary intake and blood levels of vitamin B6 and a lower risk of certain types of cancer, but more research is needed.
8. Can promote eye health and prevent eye disease
Vitamin B6 may play a role in preventing eye disease, especially a type of vision loss that affects older adults called age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
Studies have linked high levels of homocysteine in the blood with an increased risk of AMD.
Since vitamin B6 helps reduce elevated levels of homocysteine in the blood, getting enough B6 can lower the risk of this disease.
A seven-year study of more than 5,400 female healthcare professionals found that taking a daily supplement of vitamin B6, B12, and folic acid (B9) significantly reduced the risk of AMD by 35-40%, compared to a placebo .
While these results suggest that B6 may play a role in preventing AMD, it is difficult to say whether B6 alone would offer the same benefits.
Research has also linked low levels of vitamin B6 in the blood to eye conditions that block the veins that connect to the retina.
A controlled study of more than 500 people found that lower levels of B6 in the blood were significantly associated with retinal disorders.
Vitamin B6 supplements can reduce your risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
In addition, adequate levels of B6 in the blood can prevent problems that affect the retina. However, more research is needed.
9. Can treat inflammation associated with rheumatoid arthritis
Vitamin B6 can help reduce the symptoms associated with rheumatoid arthritis .
The high levels of inflammation in the body that result from rheumatoid arthritis can lead to low levels of vitamin B6.
However, it is not clear whether B6 supplementation decreases inflammation in people with this condition.
A 30-day study in 36 adults with rheumatoid arthritis found that 50 mg of vitamin B6 daily corrected low levels of B6 in the blood, but did not decrease the production of inflammatory molecules in the body.
On the other hand, a study in 43 adults with rheumatoid arthritis who took 5 mg of folic acid alone or 100 mg of vitamin B6 with 5 mg of folic acid daily showed that those who received B6 had significantly lower levels of pro-inflammatory molecules after 12 weeks.
The conflicting results of these studies may be due to the difference in the dose of vitamin B6 and the duration of the study.
While it appears that high doses of vitamin B6 supplements may provide anti-inflammatory benefits for people with rheumatoid arthritis over time, more research is needed.
Inflammation associated with rheumatoid arthritis can lower blood levels of vitamin B6.
Supplementation with high doses of B6 can help correct deficiencies and reduce inflammation, but more research is needed to confirm these effects.
Vitamin B6: food sources and supplements
You can get vitamin B6 from food or supplements.
The current recommended daily allowance (RDA) for B6 is 1.3–1.7 mg for adults over the age of 19.
Most healthy adults can get this amount through a balanced diet that includes foods rich in vitamin B6.
These foods can be:
- Garbanzo beans.
Studies highlighting the use of vitamin B6 to prevent and treat health problems focus on supplements rather than food sources.
Doses of 30 to 250 mg of vitamin B6 per day have been used in research on PMS, morning sickness, and heart disease.
These amounts of B6 are significantly higher than the RDAs and sometimes combined with other B vitamins.
It is difficult to assess whether increasing your intake of B6 from dietary sources has the same benefits for certain conditions that supplements can provide.
If you are interested in taking vitamin B6 supplements to prevent or treat a health problem, talk to your healthcare provider about the best option for you.
Also, look for a supplement that has been tested for quality by a third party.
Most people can get enough vitamin B6 through their diet. In some cases, it may be beneficial to take larger amounts of vitamin B6 from supplements under the supervision of a physician.
Potential side effects of excess vitamin B6
Getting too much vitamin B6 from supplements can cause negative side effects.
Vitamin B6 toxicity is not likely to occur from food sources of B6. It would be nearly impossible to consume the supplement amount from diet alone.
Taking more than 1,000 mg of supplemental B6 a day can cause nerve damage and pain or numbness in the hands or feet. Some of these side effects have even been documented after just 100–300 mg of B6 per day.
For these reasons, the tolerable upper limit for vitamin B6 is 100 mg per day for adults.
The amount of B6 used to control certain health conditions rarely exceeds this amount. If you are interested in taking more than the tolerable upper limit, consult your doctor.
Too much vitamin B6 from supplements can cause nerve and limb damage over time. If you are interested in taking a B6 supplement, talk to your healthcare provider about safety and dosage.
The bottom line
- Vitamin B6 is a water soluble vitamin obtained from food or supplements.
- It is necessary for many processes in your body, including the creation of neurotransmitters and the regulation of homocysteine levels.
- High doses of B6 have been used to prevent or treat certain medical conditions, such as premenstrual syndrome, age-related macular degeneration (AMD), and nausea and vomiting during pregnancy.
- Getting enough B6 through your diet or a supplement is crucial to staying healthy and can have other impressive health benefits, too.